BOOK EXTRACT: LOVE ANTHONY
It’s Columbus Day weekend, and they lucked out with gorgeous weather, an Indian Summer day in October. She sits in her beach chair with the seat upright and digs her heels into the hot sand. The ocean in front of her sparkles white and silver in the sunlight. There are no fishing boats or yachts in the distance, no kite surfers or swimmers near the shore, nothing but a pure ocean view today. She inhales and exhales.
Soak it up.
Her three daughters are busy building a sand castle. They’re too close to the water. It’ll be flooded and destroyed within an hour, but they wouldn’t heed their mother’s warning.
Her oldest daughter, almost eight, is the architect and foreman. More sand here. A feather there. Go get some shells for the windows. Dig this hole deeper. The younger two are her loyal construction workers.
The youngest, barely four, loves this job. She skips off with her pail, charges knee-deep into the ocean, fills her bucket, and returns, struggling with weight of it, sloshing at least half of the water out as she walks a drunken line back to her sisters, smiling, delighted with her contribution to the project.
She loves to watch her daughters like this, absorbed in playing, unaware of her. She admires their young bodies, all in little girl bikinis, skin still deeply tanned from a summer spent outside, skipping, squatting, bending, sitting, utterly unselfconscious.
The weather and the holiday combined have invited a lot of tourists to the island.
Compared to the last many weeks since Labor Day, the beach today feels crowded with walkers and a few sunbathers. Just yesterday she walked on this same stretch of sand for an hour and saw only one other person. But that was a Friday morning, and it was foggy and cold.
Her attention becomes drawn to a woman sitting in a similar beach chair at the water’s edge and her boy who is playing by himself next to her. The boy is a skinny little thing, shirtless in blue bathing trunks, probably a year younger than her youngest daughter.
He’s creating a line of white rocks on the sand.
Each time the water rushes in, momentarily drowning his line of rocks in white foam, he jumps up and down and squeals. He then runs into the water, like he’s chasing it, and runs back, a huge smile stretched across his face.
She continues to watch him, for some reason mesmerized, as he methodically adds more and more rocks to his line.
“Gracie, go see if that little boy wants to help you build the castle.”
Outgoing and used to taking orders, Gracie bounces over to the little boy. She watches her daughter, hands on her hips, talking to him, but they’re too far away to hear what her daughter’s saying. The boy doesn’t seem to acknowledge her. His mother looks over her shoulder for a moment.
Gracie runs back to their beach blanket alone.
“He doesn’t want to.”
Soon, the ocean begins to invade the castle, and the girls grow bored of building it anyway, and they start grumbling about being hungry. It’s lunchtime, and she didn’t bring any food. Time to go.
She closes her eyes and draws in one last warm, clean, salty breath, then exhales and gets up. She gathers a handful of stray shovels and castle molds and carries them to the water to rinse them off. She lets the water roll over her feet. It’s numbingly cold. As she rinses her daughter’s beach toys, she scans the sand for seashells or sea glass, something beautiful to bring home.
She doesn’t see anything worth collecting, but she does spot a single, brilliant white rock peeking out of the sand. She picks it up. It’s oval, tumbled perfectly smooth. She walks over to the little boy, bends down, and carefully places her rock at one end of his line.
He glances at her so quickly, it would’ve been easy to miss them altogether—stunning brown eyes, twinkling in the sun at her, delighted with her contribution to his project. He jumps and squeals and flaps his hands, a happy dance.
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